Today, Saturday, 21st August, 2021 is Khordad Roj of Fravardin Mah, which we traditionally celebrate as Khordadsal, commemorating not just the birthday of Asho Zarathushtra, but also rededicating our lives to His timeless message of attaining happiness by making others happy and perfecting the imperfections in our lives by making the right choices.
In the Gatha, Asho Zarathushtra speaks about twin mentalities (constructive and destructive) that we all have, and the choices that we must exercise in our daily lives, using sucha managha or an illuminated mind devoid of the darkness of ignorance or deceit.
Today is the day to re-affirm our faith in the avowed belief that we all can contribute to building a better world and help fulfill Zarathushtra’s ‘World Vision’ of a ‘Perfect World’ through the daily practice of Asha, which embodies truth, righteous conduct and living in harmony with the Divine Order of our universe.
Significance of Khordadsal: Khordad is that Divine Energy of Ahura Mazda which presides over ‘Time’ and ‘Perfection’. It is for this reason that the first Khordad Roj of the new Zoroastrian calendar is celebrated as Khordad-Sal-Khoday, i.e., ‘Khordad, Lord of the year’. Homage is paid to this Divine Energy of ‘Time’ and ‘Perfection’ so that the year is filled with happiness and our lives come closer to perfection.
In Zoroastrian tradition, a number of significant events are believed to have taken place on this blessed day. Gayomard (the first human being), Hooshang (the first King of ancient Iran), Kai Khosraw (a great and glorious King of Iran) and most important of all, Asho Zarathushtra, are all believed to have been born on this auspicious day! This day also signifies the triumph of good over evil, for on this day, Shah Jamsheed is believed to have virtually vanquished death and disease; the great King Kai Khosraw vanquished the evil Afrasiab; and King Vishtasp accepted Zarathushtra as a Divine Messenger.
In ancient times, Parsis would spend this auspicious day in prayers at home and of course, at Agiary or Atash Behram. It is also considered meritorious to perform jashan ceremony on this day to invoke the blessings of Ahura Mazda and His Divine Energy of Perfection. In fact, until a few decades ago, Khordadsal used to be a general public holiday declared by the State Government.
What Was Zarathushtra’s World Vision?
Today, most community members mechanically forward pictures of Zarathushtra (although no one really knows what Zarathushtra looked like) and Khordadsal greetings on social media, and enjoy a special lunch and dinner. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with exchanging greetings or enjoying a good and hearty family feast. Zarathushtra was not against life or any of its joys and bounties. But he was against was falsehood and hypocrisy. Hence, today is an important day for us to revisit his vision and reflect on the values he wanted us all to imbibe.
Zarathushtra was not against creating wealth; in fact, he saw prosperity as positive and poverty as negative. He was not against eating, drinking or marriage. In fact, not even once, did he suggest fasting or celibacy to attain salvation or enlightenment. He expected people to live life in its totality, knowing full well that if one doesn’t, he/she becomes bitter or a hypocrite and a bitter charlatan is incapable of realizing the truth.
Zarathushtra’s Gatha: These are life affirmative and speak about life in totality. Zarathushtra does not talk about salvation, he speaks of happiness. He doesn’t speak about saving you or your soul, he expects you to be your own savior by exercising enlightened choices. He wanted his followers to live an ordinary, but active, industrious life with extraordinary intensity and passion. He did not want us to fear Ahura Mazda; he wanted us to befriend Ahura Mazda!
Zarathushtra did not want us to please God; he wanted us to be pleased with our own enlightened or well thought out choices. He did not encourage pain or penance in this world with promise of a better world after death. Zarathushtra talked of the here and now and about attaining happiness in this world itself, mainly by bringing happiness to others.
Understanding the Gatha: The Gatha, which comprise seventeen hymns composed by Asho Zarathushtra himself, are arranged into five groups based on their meter:
- Ahunavaiti Gatha (Yasna 28 to Yasna 34)
- Ushtavaiti Gatha (Yasna 43 to Yasna 46)
- Spentamainyush Gatha (Yasna 47 to Yasna 50)
- Vohukhshathra Gatha (Yasna 51)
- Vahishtoishti Gatha (Yasna 53).
These Gatha unfold Zarathushtra’s vision with a vibrant and poetic resonance. Each hymn enshrines the distilled essence of his total dedication to Ahura Mazda – the embodiment of life and wisdom.
Choose Wisely: The Gathas speak of the twin mentalities and choices we all must make using our sucha managha or ‘Illuminated mind’. Zarathushtra says: “I will speak of the Spirits Twain at the first beginning of Life, of whom the Holier Spake thus to the wicked one: Never shall our minds harmonize, nor our doctrines; neither our aspirations, nor yet our beliefs; neither our words nor yet our actions”. This elaborates the ethical duality we observe in this world and in our lives. The Gatha advises: “Hear with your ears the highest Truths, consider them with clear thought, before deciding between the two paths, man by man, each one for himself”.
Zarathushtra speaks here about the moral and ethical choices each of us must exercise with clear thought or an illuminated mind. Once we make a decision, we have to be responsible for its consequences. No savior can come to our rescue except our own good thoughts, words and deeds. In reference to these two paths, Zarathushtra states: “And of these two the wise do choose what’s right; the unwise choose not thus.”
Power Of Good Thought Aligned With Truth: The Ushtavaiti Gatha, which embodies happiness, celebrates the Zoroastrian precept of friendship with Mazda. In Ushtavaiti Gatha, Yasna 46.2 Zarathustra says: “Rafedhrem chagvaao hyat fryo fryaai daidit, Aakhso vangheush ashaa ishtim manangho.” Meaning (as translated by Prof. Stanley Insler): “Take notice of it, Lord, offering the support which a friend should grant to a friend. Let me see the power of good thinking allied with truth!” Here Zarathushtra does not see Mazda as the Master or the Lord or as Father or someone to fear, but as Divine Wisdom and a beloved friend to talk to in times of distress and to love Mazda and to seek Mazda’s support to perfect an imperfect world with friendship based on positive thinking aligned with Truth and Wisdom.
Living In Harmony With Asha: The Spentamainyush Gatha corresponding to Yasna 47 to 50 embodies the qualities of Purity, Piety, Simplicity, Tolerance and Humility. In this Gatha Zarathushtra questions: “On whom can I count for help? On whom can I depend to protect my possessions?” And, he answers in the same verse: “On whom but on Thy Truth, and on Thyself, O Mazda Ahura, when invoked with the Enlightened Mind!” Note here the emphasis on invoking Mazda’s Wisdom with an enlightened or illumined mind instead of mechanical babble without focus or understanding.
Zarathushtra further asks: “Tell me, O Mazda, how should they act and work? Who care for this joy-giving world with its pastures?” The answer: “Living upright lives under the recurring splendor of the sun, apart from the repudiators, living ordered lives in harmony with the law of Truth, these shall reap the Blessed Reward!” In other words, Zarathushtra tells us that excellence and fulfillment can be achieved by leading an upright life in sync with the law of Asha and away from the perpetrators of evil. In doing so, Spenta, the very spirit of the earth, rejoices.
Excellence Through Righteous Action: The Vohukhashatra Gatha (Vohu = Good and Khashatra = Power or Strength) elucidates the power of doing good deeds. It says: “That man, who performs all his actions as an act of worship through Asha’s Law, is deemed as the best by Mazda Ahura. Those who have been in the past and who are such at present, I shall, with reverence, recall them by name, and shall try to reach their high position by righteous deeds.” This Gatha relates to Yasna 51 wherein Zarathustra elucidates that excellence comes through righteous actions performed as acts of worship. Thus, righteous actions are the best form of worship and such actions reap strength and empowerment.
Cherish Righteousness: In the fifth and last Gatha, Vahishto-Ishti corresponding to Yasna 53, Zarathushtra gives his daughter Pouruchista’s hand away in marriage and counsels: “These words do I address to you maidens who are being married, these counsels do I give to you, bridegrooms, heed them in your minds and lay them to heart. Let each cherish the other with Righteousness. Then surely the reward of a happy life shall be yours.” Here, Zarathustra does not see marriage as a contract to cohabit; instead, he sees it as a path to happiness, a bond of friendship to cherish and togetherness to celebrate with joy.
While concluding He also emphasizes the benefits of praying. Beginning the day with a prayer puts us in a positive and peaceful frame of mind. It fortifies our self-confidence and generates new energy and, in the process, equips us mentally and emotionally to face the daily ordeals of life. Prayer is a great source of psychic energy. When we pray, we link ourselves with the inexhaustible motive power that spins the entire universe.
Happiness Is A Choice: We live in a perfecting world that’s still far away from the perfect world that Zarathushtra envisioned. But, Zarathushtra has given us a roadmap that can help us take a few steps towards his ideal.
Religion is a way of life. Let’s live it! Live life fully, truthfully, charitably, purely, lovingly and happily. Indeed, it’s all we need to make this world a better place to live in. Happiness is a choice. Choose happiness with wisdom!